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Allegations it is not acting fast enough to address labour shortages in Central Otago’s viticulture and horticulture sectors have been rebuffed by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).
The region’s viticulturists and horticulturists have described 11th-hour worker no-shows and walkouts as the season begins in the region’s vineyards and orchards, and have said MSD was not doing enough.
MSD southern regional commissioner for social development Jason Tibble said the agency understood it was a challenging time for many across the region and acknowledged the concerns raised as seasonal labour peaks neared.
The challenging labour environment had been a recurring issue and was more difficult in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19.
Mr Tibble said the industry was the primary leader in finding workers and developing a future sustainable workforce, but MSD wanted businesses and jobseekers to know it was there to help respond to the current employment situation.
That response included referring registered job seekers to vacancies within the region and having a work broker focused solely on recruitment for seasonal work.
"We are also co-funding a seasonal employment co-ordinator in Central Otago to assist with marketing employment opportunities."
MSD had formed partnerships to promote the region’s vacancies and opportunities at employment expos and was promoting seasonal work vacancies in every service centre in the southern region through electronic job boards and marketing material, he said.
"To further promote these positions, we have created a regional page on the Work the Seasons website showcasing initiatives like the ‘Work, Play and Stay’ campaign, which aimed to help students into summer fruit jobs.
"To ensure we are well connected with our partner agencies, members of our labour market team are active members of the Central Otago labour market governance group."
The group discussed horticulture and viticulture shortages at a strategic level and discussions had generated several initiatives that were "in the pipeline" to help fill any labour gaps with workers from around the country, Mr Tibble said.
The team also participated in discussions with Summerfruit New Zealand, Horticulture New Zealand, Immigration and the Ministry of Primary Industries to address issues and identify employment opportunities.
Initiatives such as discounted campervan hire, and worker buses from main centres were being discussed, he said.